13 Things To Know Before Moving In With Your Significant Other

Photographed by Michael O'Neal.
In New York City, cohabitation with your S.O. is almost as much a rite of passage as getting lost on the subway or the inevitable regret after buying a $15 cocktail. But, for a long time — at least, before I moved here — I was convinced that I would never move in with a significant other before he put a ring on it. However, when my boyfriend and I moved here and his job demanded that he be out of town four days a week, we realized that living separately wouldn’t just be a questionable romantic decision, it would be a terrible financial one. We moved in together in late 2013, and have loved the experience thus far. 

As it turns out, cohabitation is not the death knell for marriage that previous generations thought it would be. Yes, there are downsides to the choice — and potential for total catastrophe — but the truth is, marriage, in general, is losing its grip as the end-all, be-all of romantic life choices.

But, is it possible to prepare for cohabitation? Love may be anything but one-size-fits-all, yet in a city where the idea of moving in together is so ubiquitous, there are things we can all learn (and prepare for). Ahead, 13 New York women share tidbits of advice they wish they had before shacking up with their significant other in the concrete jungle.      

"I wish that I had known more about the basics of keeping your space and your belongings yours. I really assumed that [my boyfriend and I] would just share everything, so we got rid of a lot of the stuff that we had doubles of. But, there is something really important about having your own mug, your own chair, your own blankets...and if you don’t have things that feel 'yours,' you can start to resent the other person a little bit. We still live together now, but I have my own set of things again. He's not allowed to use my mug."
–Zoe, 25      

"Don't ever move in with someone while still living at your/their parents' house. Don't ever do it."
–Carly, 23

"Having a clear budget is so, so important. My boyfriend and I share a bank account, and we are very strict about accounting. We Venmo each other like ten times a week, even for really little things. At first, I thought, 'That's so unromantic, I don't want to have to keep a tally of everything we owe each other' (I kept having flashes of that really terrible couple in The Joy Luck Club, where the husband counted everything 50/50), but he was totally right to make us do it. Not having a clear budget, and not knowing who is spending what, is the source of so many relationship fights. We can still treat each other; it just has to be explicitly counted. That way, there are never any questions."
– Gabi, 31

"You need to have designated 'areas' in the house that are yours, especially if you live in a small apartment, like my boyfriend and I do. We were living in our place for nearly a year before I set up my little desk area, and now things are a hundred times better. I have my spot, I don't bother him in the other room all the time, and it feels a little more personal. When you're always on top of each other's nooks and crannies, you sometimes start to feel like you're suffocating."
–Joy, 30

"I really regret the time I lived with someone, because I think it prematurely ended our relationship. Basically, I was a lot younger than him (I was 25, he was 36), and it was my first 'really serious relationship,' where I was actually moving in with someone and thinking about marrying them. He, however, had already been in about three of those, so everything that seemed like a big deal to me, he saw as a sign of my immaturity. And, honestly, looking back, it was. Things like, ‘He stays out late sometimes,' or 'He wants to be alone to play video games,’ made me so angry and started so many fights. And, he just got sick of it. So, we broke up. To this day, I still get mad at myself when I look back."
–Kara, 28 

"Three things are really important to me about living with someone, but I didn’t know any of them before I moved in with my now-husband:

"Don't feel like you need to be with them all the time. In fact, it’s probably a lot more important that you have your own shit to do when you’re living with someone, because seeing someone every single night and feeling like you don’t have the space to just be totally yourself/alone gets really annoying. And, ask the same thing of them. My husband and I each have nights where we go out and do our own things with friends, and the other person gets the apartment to themselves. Both are really important.

"Be clean, cleaner than you would be if you were on your own, because you will hate it when the person you love is not clean for you. It feels like disrespect.

"Make an effort to cook and eat relatively healthy, because it's really easy to get into a 'let's just watch TV and get takeout again' rut when you have someone enabling you.”
–Catelyn, 33 

Photographed by Michael O'Neal.
"I wish I knew that it was okay to have friends over. It sounds stupid, but you kind of start feeling like, ‘Okay, I’m an adult now, no more friend time at the adult house.’ Now, sometimes, I’ll tell my boyfriend, ‘Thursday night, I’m having a few girls over, so find something to do and don’t come home until 11 or whatever.' And, he’ll do the same thing to me. It’s important that you still feel like it is your home where you can do things just for you, too.” 
–Olana, 28 

"Don't leave your dishes in the sink. Don't let little frustrations bottle up and fester. Don't wear your shoes in the house and track mud everywhere. Don't bother them while they're watching their favorite show. Don't criticize what they're eating. And, don't let them do any of that stuff to you."
–Emily, 26 

"I moved in with my first boyfriend when I was 20, which, looking back, is a ridiculously young age to make any major life decision, let alone live with someone you're dating. But, we were in love (and broke) and really wanted to make it work, so it made sense for us to live together in a house off campus.

"We were in one of those situations where it was us in one room, another couple in another room, and then three single roommates in the other rooms, all in one big house. It was a terrible living situation, mostly because seven people should not all live together like that, but my boyfriend and I took it out on each other a lot. There were always arguments and tension, because we really didn’t have any control over our living space and never felt at home or happy when we were there. We broke up after a year, and while I think it would have probably ended anyway, because we were in such a crazy living situation, we had no real way of telling which problems were our problems and which problems were house problems. You should never move in with someone for the first time with a bunch of other people."
–Natalie, 28 

"Know yourself financially in and out before you agree to live with someone. You have to be in total control of your finances, be aware of your budget, and be able to support yourself if it doesn’t work out. Just because you’re saving on rent doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have to budget and work hard, and if you have to split up for whatever reason, the last thing you want is to realize you don’t know how to handle money because you were depending on them. Be independent."
–Elise, 30 

"No one told me that guys are gross. Like, they fart, and eat out of the refrigerator, and don't care about messes, and will put dishes in the sink for days on end. I would have made him pay for a cleaning lady up front if I knew I was going to be cleaning up after him." 
-Jamie, 29    

"I think there is an awkwardness in living together when you out-earn your partner, and I wish I had known that. I earn a little over $100,000 a year, while my boyfriend is a struggling comedian who has shows off and on, and probably totals about $25,000 at the end of everything.

"Honestly, this doesn't bother me at all. I love him and think he is hilarious and perfect and totally the person I need in my life, but I can tell that it makes him feel really uncomfortable. He makes a lot of little comments now that we're living together about how I spent a lot on this, or went out a lot that week, and you can just tell that it bugs him to not be able to do the same, or not be able to 'provide' for me. I hate that gender dynamics are still in play (because he's really liberal and smart about most things), but I think guys can't help it. It hurts their pride, and sometimes, I feel kind of jealous of my girlfriends who earn the same or less than their partners."
–Joan, 34

"Don't let your parents (or theirs) get in your ear. They probably mean well, but they don’t know you or your situation. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t let them force you into anything, and don’t let them micro-manage your life. I broke up with a boyfriend that I was in love with because his mother would not stop involving herself in our life and home together. It’s four years later, and I honestly still feel resentful towards them."
–Hana, 29    

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